Economic Theory, Policy and the Evolution of Governance in the National Basketball League

33 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2014

See all articles by Robert D. Macdonald

Robert D. Macdonald

University of Melbourne - Law School

Rick Burton

Syracuse University

Date Written: December 12, 2013


The Australian National Basketball League (NBL) first tipped off in 1979 and by the early 1990s, basketball was Australia’s fourth most popular spectator sport behind Australian football, rugby league and cricket. Yet the NBL was struggling soon thereafter and today it rarely rises above the level of niche spectator sport, in spite of high grassroots basketball participation and strong national teams. We review the evolution of NBL governance, especially the creation of a league competition organiser controlled by the NBL clubs and Basketball Australia in 1989; the merger of that entity, NBL Management Limited, and Basketball Australia in 2009, followed by the subsequent 2013 ‘de-merger’ and formation of a new competition organiser privately owned by the NBL clubs and other investors. More than 30 clubs have come and gone in 35 seasons. The current eight club NBL competition includes a mix of large- and very small-market clubs, private owners and public membership-based entities. Continual financial instability and power struggles between Basketball Australia and the NBL club owners/managers have resulted in a failure to devise a governance model that was a long-term, stable, efficient and profitable agreement between either the NBL clubs themselves, or between the NBL competition organiser and Basketball Australia.

Keywords: National Basketball League (Australia), Sport Governance, League Governance, Sport History

JEL Classification: D71, L31, L83, N87

Suggested Citation

Macdonald, Robert D. and Burton, Rick, Economic Theory, Policy and the Evolution of Governance in the National Basketball League (December 12, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Robert D. Macdonald (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

Rick Burton

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

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